Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Criminal profiling
How is criminal profiling used by law enforcement agencies?
Overview[edit | edit source]
This chapter will explore the psychological theories of motivation used in criminal profiling (CP). Additionally, this chapter will answer what CP is, identify and evaluate psychology motivation theories involved and acknowledge how CP is used by law enforcement agencies.
"The crime scene is presumed to reflect the murderer's behaviour and personality in much the same way as furnishings reveal the homeowner's character" (Douglas et al., 1992, p. 21)
Offender profiling, behavioural profiling and investigative profiling, are just a few variations of the term most known as CP. CP is used by law enforcement to make inferences about a suspect using 'behavioural evidence left at a crime scene' (Torres et al., 2006, p. 51). These inferences are based on specific personality traits and behavioural characteristics of the crime committed. CP has been further defined by Turvey (2012, p. 5) as a process where inferences are made concerning "the physical, habitual, emotional, psychological and vocational characteristics of criminals." Furthermore, the purpose of CP is to narrow the suspect pool, not to find the exact perpetrator.
Additionally, CP has been used by a broad spectrum of professionals as discussed by Turvey (2012, p. 5). The most common professions utilising CP include; 'investigators, behavioural scientists, social scientists and forensic scientists' Turvey (2012, p. 5). A well-known example of CP is seen on TV in Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds is a crime show that follows a group of criminal profilers within the F.B.I Behavioural Analysis Unit (IMDb, 2021). In the show, the F.B.I agents use psychological and forensic analysis, as well as historical details to solve crimes. It is important to reiterate that this show is scripted and fantasises the ease of solving criminal affairs. Although fictional, shows like Criminal Minds are useful to show viewers how a technique like CP is used.
The process of CP can in real life involves studying the victimology of a crime. When using victimology, investigators and law enforcement are able to study the choices of the victim(s), as well as the perpetrator(s). This chapter discusses theories of motivation, fundamental assumptions and techniques of CP used by law enforcement agencies. Figure 1. shows a progression of CP.
Theories of motivation that underlie criminal profiling[edit | edit source]
Motivation has been presented in empirical literature as a fundamental and complex part of human agency (Hattie, Hodis & Kang, 2020, p. 1). Motivation as a term has been used to describe a range of human tendencies and explores the study of why people behave a particular way. To examine human motivation further, Hattie, Hodis and Kang (2020, p.1) discussed the four aspects of motivation; self, social, cognitive aspects and task values (shown in Figure 2). These areas of motivation help to identify internal and external factors that help an individual achieve a desired behaviour. This section will provide an analysis of theories of motivation that underlie CP.
Motivated reasoning[edit | edit source]
Early literature presents motivated reasoning as a phenomenon that occurs when an individual is motivated to believe what they want to believe and becomes reliant on a biased set of cognitive processes. Using this definition, motivated reasoning can be understood as a theory of motivation that results from a person's tendency to confirm favoured conclusions (Epley & Gilovich, 2016, p. 133). By favouring desired outcomes, a person may select evidence and process information in a way that supports their claims, potentially altering how they remember certain events or experiences. This theory of motivation can be used to explain the phenomena where individuals are wrongly prosecuted for crimes they did not commit. To further understand how motivated reasoning occurs, recruitment and evaluation of evidence will be discussed.
Recruiting evidence is used to explain how an individual considers available information; do they consider all information available, or do they only indulge in evidence that supports their beliefs. It has been identified that when someone is open to all information, they experience ease when recruiting evidence, as opposed to avoiding information which makes recruiting evidence harder (Epley & Gilovich, 2016, p. 136). In the case of CP, recruiting evidence does not influence what people believe in but what information is considered (Epley & Gilovich, 2016, p. 136). A critical note to make is that recruiting evidence is used to confirm a desired conclusion and is not to be confused with confirmation bias. When using recruiting evidence, an investigator may avoids information that helps them reach a desired conclusion, e.g., arrest a suspect. An additional way motivated reasoning is used can be identified in the evaluation of evidence.
Epley and Gilovich (2016), presented 'evaluation of evidence' to be a secondary process that underlies motivated reasoning. Evaluating evidence can be distorted based on how we interpret the meaning of evidence provided. To understand how evaluating evidence can distort perception, Mullen and Skitka (2006) case study of Kevorkian has been evaluated. This case study demonstrated how an individual can be motivated to seek additional information if their desired outcome is not reached. In the case of CP, the Kevorkian case provided an example of how motivated reasoning is used in a criminal setting to reach a favourable conclusion.
|Case study: Kevorkian Case
In 1999, Dr Jack Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years imprisonment for second-degree murder for assisting Thomas Youk, a patient who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, to die using euthanasia (Mullen and Skitka 2006, p. 629). This case sparked public uproar, with two sides forming; those who support euthanasia and those who do not.
Eysenck's theory of criminality[edit | edit source]
Eysenck and Eysenck (1970, p. 225) proposed a theory of crime and personality that recognised both hereditary and environmental factors. This presented environmental and personality traits associated with criminal or antisocial behaviours. This model presented a three-factor theory using extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. These three factors were analysed and regarded as indicators for criminal behaviour, resulting from characteristics such as; risk-taking and impulsiveness (extraversion), anxiety, emotionality and isolation (neuroticism) and solitary, cruel, lack of feeling and sensation-seeking (psychoticism).
To test this theory, Eysenck and Eysenck (1970, p. 230) proposed a personality questionnaire to measure extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism, amongst 603 male prisoners and three control groups. The questionnaire was composed of two sets of scales with high loadings on all three factors (Eysenck and Eysenck 1970, p. 230). The results showed four key findings;
- Socialisation can be achieved as a result of conditioning.
- Extraverts on average, condition poorly.
- Neuroticism reinforces extraverted and/or introverted tendencies that then either promote or decrease anti-social behaviour.
- Anti-social behaviour is therefore theorised to be more prominent in individuals who possess high levels of extraversion and neuroticism.
Eysenck's Theory of Criminality (1970) (Eysenck's Theory), helps to describe personality traits of criminals. For example, someone who scales high on extraversion and neuroticism may be unconsciously motivated to conduct criminal behaviour. Therefore, Eysenck's Theory can assist law enforcement to define innate characteristics of criminals. This provides insight in understanding why a suspect was motivated to commit a crime, but also assist law enforcement to identify common characteristics of criminals.
Law enforcement could use Eysenck's Theory of Criminality (1970) to gain an understanding of what environmental and personality traits may lead to delinquency. Once identified, agencies could use their understanding of environment and hereditary factors of criminality to establish preventative measures such as resources in low socio-economic areas, support services for individuals possessing anti-social behaviour and/or education on corrective behaviour. As a result, Eysenck's Theory of Criminality (1970) can be used to explain how hereditary and environmental factors may direct individuals towards criminal activity, as well as evaluate common characteristics that could assist in CP.
Social identity theory[edit | edit source]
A person's identity is an imperative part of the self that provides a basis for motivating and directing behaviour. In this section, identity will be discussed regarding criminal social identity and Social Identity Theory (SIT) (Tajfel & Turner, 1979)in law enforcement agencies.
Boduzek et al., (2016, p.2) theorised the development of a criminal social identity as an outcome of four psychosocial factors; (1) an identity crisis, (2) exposure to a criminal/antisocial environment, (3) desire to be included in a group for self-esteem reasons, (4) the role of personality traits in association with a criminal environment. When combined, these factors assist an individual to develop criminal associations that can be supported using SIT. SIT in the context of criminal identity is shown in Figure 3. As individual's adopt a group identity, they may be motivated to act out of the interest of the group and commit criminal activity more regularly or at a higher intensity.
In addition to criminal social identity, law enforcement agents can be motivated to behave against out-group members. As presented by Mullen and Skitka (2006, p. 631), the outcomes of criminal procedures and profiling of criminals may be subject to in-group favouritism and out-group discrimination. Therefore, law enforcement agents may feel motivated to use their authority against out-group members. Hardcourt (2003, p. 8) went further to say that CP 'accentuates prejudice and bias' evident in its exploitation of identifiable traits and criminal activity. In recent years, out-group discrimination by law enforcement agencies has received increased media attention, through social movements such as Black Lives Matters. An example of out-group discrimination by a law enforcement is shown in a study by Knowles et al. (1999).
Case study: African American motorists in the United States
The findings showed that out of the 1590 car stops conducted during this period, '1007 (63.45%) were performed on African Americans, 466 (29.3%) on Caucasians, 97 (6.1%) on Hispanics and the remaining 1.3% on other groups (Knowles et al., 1999, p. 16). In addition to these results, Knowles et al. (1999) identified that the proportion of African-American and Caucasian motorists found guilty was (0.34 vs. 0.32). These findings support the use of racial bias by law enforcement agencies because of the increased likelihood of African Americans having their car searched.
Overall, a person's self and group identity have imperative implications on their attitudes, behaviour and perceptions. This was evident in the case study which showed the likelihood of African American motorists to be stopped and searched by law enforcement agents.
Focus question answered: How is motivation used in criminal profiling?
Quiz: Theory of motivation[edit | edit source]
Fundamental assumptions of criminal profiling[edit | edit source]
CP has been used since 38 CE, with evidence of its use in anti-Semitic reports and witch trials. In 1876, Cesare Lombroso theorised a slightly more modern approach to CP, by completing an analysis of traits amongst offenders. Lombroso proposed that there were 18 physical traits found in a 'born criminal' (Turvey, 2012, pp. 19-20). Despite Lombroso's theory being debunked by current literature, his use of CP was ahead of his time. However, CP as we know it today, began in the 1970's and was used by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Behavioural Science Unit (BSU), adopting techniques from forensic psychology and behavioural analysis.
An important note to make is that CP does not have a universal framework, but instead utilises three fundamental assumptions; homology assumption, behavioural consistency and behavioural differentiation (see Table 1). These assumptions can be used as guidelines, as each assumption explains what CP aims to achieve. The three fundamental assumptions of CP will be further discussed regarding their use by law enforcement agencies.
|Homology Assumption:||Offenders present similar characteristics when committing crimes of similar interest|
|Behavioural Consistency:||The behaviour of offender is consistent with each criminal act they commit|
|Behavioural Differentiation:||The offender behaves in a distinct way that differentiates them from other offenders|
How criminal profiling is used by law enforcement agencies[edit | edit source]
The fundamental assumptions of homology, behavioural consistency and behavioural differentiation are at the forefront of CP techniques. The three CP techniques that will be evaluated are criminal investigative analysis, investigative psychology, and behavioural evidence analysis.
Criminal investigative analysis (CIA)[edit | edit source]
CIA or crime scene analysis, is one of the most well-known forms of CP and was developed by FBI and used by the FBI BSU. If crime scene analysis sounds familiar, you may have heard of it from crime television shows or movies such as Criminal Minds, NCIS, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or Silence of the Lambs. However, the depiction of CIA on television shows and movies provides a glorified view of CP.
Instead, CIA is an 'investigative process that investigates the personality and behavioural traits of an offender and their crime' (Turvey, 2012, p. 72). These characteristics are used to create a 'criminal personality profile' or a 'Criminal Profile', which can be used by law enforcement agencies to gather information on types of criminals and their association with specific crimes (Turvey, 2012, p. 72). In particular, a Criminal Profile can classify personality types more broadly, and distinguish between organised (planned) or disorganised (spontaneous) crimes.
Investigative psychology (IP)[edit | edit source]
IP is an emerging field of CP that explores the criminal actions of offenders, 'to develop an increased understanding of criminality and assist law enforcement agencies and judicial systems with prosecution' . Developed by Professor David Canter, IP is a progression from CIA that applies an investigative cycle. The investigation process describes the sequence of activities and decision-making used by investigations from when the crime occurs, actions of the police, information used, and the conviction. Therefore, IP is used as a roadmap to conduct criminal investigations and further aligns the offender profile with additional information to prepare analyses for prosecution.
Behavioural evidence analysis (BEA)[edit | edit source]
BEA is an ideo-deductive method of CP used by law enforcement agencies to gather 'physical, documentary, or testimonial evidence' that can be used to understand when the crime took place and how (Turvey, 2021, p. 123). Examples of BEA would include, finger prints, blood droplets, pieces of clothing, weapons, semen, as well as devices and recording footage. The use of BEA therefore requires law enforcement to interpret physical evidence and characteristics of the crime scene. To do this BEA utilised four types of analysis:
|Analyses||Description (Mutawa et al., 2018, p. 71)|
|Forensic analysis||Process of scientific assessment; examination, analysis, evaluation, critical thinking, reasoning and logical analysis|
|Victimology||Analysing and determining characteristics of the victim e.g., their daily routine, personality traits or physical appearance|
|Identification of crime scene characteristics||Analysing characteristics of the crime scene and identifying any unique traits|
|Identification of offender characteristics||Application of previous findings to identity characteristics of an offender|
The use of BEA by law enforcement agencies provides a more in-depth analyses of the crime scene and provides a detailed process for the identification of offender characteristics. This method of CP also has a largely emphasise on the victim compared to CIA and IP techniques.
Focus question answered: How and why is criminal profiling used by law enforcement agencies?
Conclusion[edit | edit source]
This chapter has discussed the theories of motivation underling criminal profiling and how it is used by law enforcement agencies. Section one presented motivated reasoning and out-group bias as motivators that law enforcement agents could use to fabricate evidence. Additionally, Eysenck's Theory of Criminality and Social Identity Theory were analysed to describe environmental, hereditary and social motivators of criminal behaviour.
In subsequent analysis, the fundamental assumptions of criminal profiling were identified and how law enforcement used criminal profiling was discussed. The fundamental assumptions of criminal profiling were identified as, homology assumption, behavioural consistency and behavioural differentiation. These assumptions were used to demonstrate the purpose of profiling and provided a baseline for further analyses of techniques used by law enforcement.
This chapter presented the techniques of criminal investigative analysis, investigative psychology and behavioural evidence analysis to explain how criminal profiling is used by law enforcement. Criminal investigative analysis is used by agencies to classify personality traits of criminals and identify the nature of a crime scene. Secondary analyses showed the use of investigative psychology as an investigative cycle used by agencies. Finally, behavioural evidence analysis is used by law enforcement to provide an in-depth analyses of the crime scene and identify characteristics of the offender(s) and victim(s).
Limitations and future directions for criminal profiling[edit | edit source]
As briefing discussed, there is no universal framework for CP. This is a limitation because it causes implications to the validity and reliability of CP techniques. Issues of validity have been found in empirical research by Canter et al. (2004) concerning the limited support of typologies used to classify serial killers (Torres et al., 2006, p. 51). The lack of support for typologies specific to serial killers is a serious concern because they are used to generate criminal profiles. This becomes a serious implication if these typologies were misused or misdirected law enforcement. It is important to note that the lack of validity towards typologies has only been found regarding serial killers, however, typologies for rape and murder offenders has been supported (Torres et al., 2006, p. 52). The inconsistency of typologies in empirical literature should be explored in future research, and an alternative typology for serial killers should be advised.
In addition to issues of validity, CP techniques have presented issues in reliability and accuracy. Torres et al. (2006, p. 52), identified reliability as an issue amongst professional profilers in identifying whether a crime scenes is; organised, disorganised, mixed or unknown, evident in findings by Ressler & Burgess (1985). Ressler & Burgess (1985) findings showed that in sixty-four cases, profilers only reached a consensus on 74% of these. Although this demonstrates a majority agreement, it is concerning that law enforcement do not have more advanced guidelines in place to aid this process. Therefore, future research would be useful to provide clear definitions and guidelines to assist law enforcement with assessing crime scene characteristics. A final area of critique is the accuracy of CP.
The accuracy of CP was examined by Pinzzotto and Finkel (1990) analysed by Torres et al. (2006). Pinzzotto and Finkel (1990) study analysed four FBI profilers, six police detectors with profiling experience, six clinical psychologists with no profiling experience and six undergraduate student with no profiling experience. The study followed participant as they produced profiles for one murder and one arson case. The results gathered from this experiment showed no significant difference between groups when profiling the murder case but did produce a significant difference when analysing arson (Torres et al., 2006, p. 52). This is only one experiment however; the results do identify a limitation is the accuracy of CP and presents concerns over the skills required to be a professional profiler. Additional studies are necessary to examine the accuracy of CP to ensure whether this study was an outcome of chance. A final limitation of CP is its subjectivity to bias.
Evident in earlier analyses of motivated reasoning and Social Identity Theory, CP can be subject to bias. The implications posed by motivation and out-group bias is their ability to produce fabricated evidence. Therefore, fabricated evidence implicates the validity and reliability of CP. Future research would be beneficial to explore and implement preventative measures to limit bias with CP techniques.
Key findings[edit | edit source]
The main theory of motivation that supported criminal profiling was motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning can be used to explain why some agents may feel motivated to fabricate evidence in order to achieve a desired outcome/verdict. This was demonstrated in an analysis of the 'Kevorkian Case', where individuals were either satisfied or dissatisfied, causing some agents to seek additional information. A secondary main finding was the use of CP today the techniques of CIA, IP and BEA. These techniques are imperative to support CP in contemporary criminal analyses and debunk the fabricated view of CP shown in television shows and movies. Additionally, criminal profiling was presented as a technique that is still used by law enforcement despite its limitations. The limitations of criminal profiling were subject to validity, reliability, accuracy and bias.
Focus questions: What are the limitations of criminal profiling? Limitations to CP were evident in issues of validity, reliability, accuracy and bias.
See also[edit | edit source]
For those interested in some additional sources concerning crime motivation, I would suggest reading the following;
- Domestic violence motivation (Book chapter, 2021)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2019/Tax evasion motivation (Book Chapter, 2017)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Torture motivation (Book Chapter, 2021)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2010/Violent crime motivation (Book Chapter, 2010)
- Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/White collar crime motivation (Book Chapter, 2017)
- Dark triad and personality
References[edit | edit source]
- Alison, L., & Barrett, E. (2004). The interpretation and utilisation of offender profiles: a critical review of 'traditional' approached to profiling. Forensic psychology: Concepts, debates and practice, 58-77. William Publishing
- Torres, A. N., Boccaccini, M. T., & Miller, H. A. (2006). Perceptions of the Validity and Utility of Criminal Profiling Among Forensic Psychologists and Psychiatrists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 37(1), 51-58. http://people.uncw.edu/myersb/292/readings/readings/profiling.pdf
- Douglas, J. E., Ressler, R. K., Burgess, A W., & Hartman, C. R. (1986). Criminal profiling from crime scene analysis. Behavioural Sciences & the Law, 4(4), 401-421.https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2370040405
- Turvey, B. E. (2012). Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioural Evidence Analysis. Elsevier.
- IMDb, 2021. Criminal Minds, IMDb. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0452046/
- Hattie, J., Hodis, F. A., & Kang, S. H. K.(2020). Theories of motivation: Integration and ways forward. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 61(1), 1-8. https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0361476X20300308?token=46E503607335694E61E8358C524C8A17A49C464337CB33ADDFDBB21230973333577323D556AA0B1555A4D53A7B01DB65&originRegion=us-east-1&originCreation=20211016001611
- Epley, N., & Gilovich, T. (2016). The Mechanics of Motivated Reasoning. Journal of Economics Perspectives, 30(3), 133-140.
- Mullen, E., & Skitka, L. J. (2006), 'Exploring the Psychological Underpinnings of the Moral Mandate Effect: Motivated Reasoning, Group Differentiation, or Anger?', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(4), 629-643.
- Eysenck, S. B., & Eysenck, H. J. (1970). 'Crime and Personality: An empirical study of the three-factor theory', The British Journal of Criminology, 10(3), 22-239.
- Burgess, P. K. (1972), 'Eyesenck's theory of criminality: A new apprach', The British Journal of Criminality, 12(1), 74-82.
- Paternoster, R. (2009). Desistance and the Feared Self: Toward an Identity Theory of Criminal Desistance, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 99(4), 1103-1156, https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=7339&context=jclc.
- Boduszek, D., Dhingra, K., & Debowska, A. (2016). The Integrated Psychological Model of Criminal Social Identity. Deviant Behaviour, 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2016.1167433
- Hyland, P., & Boduszek, D. (2011). The Theoretical Model of Criminal Social Identity: Psycho-social perspective. International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory, 4(1), 604-615. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263076912_The_Theoretical_Model_of_Criminal_Social_Identity_Psycho-social_perspective?enrichId=rgreq-08bf16abaf6bcd5d9e51126c4b38a10d-XXX&enrichSource=Y292ZXJQYWdlOzI2MzA3NjkxMjtBUzoyNjAxMjY3MjQ1ODc1MjFAMTQzOTAzMDQ1MjE1Ng%3D%3D&el=1_x_2&_esc=publicationCoverPdf
- Harcourt, B. E. (2003) Rethinking Racial Profiling: A critique of the economics, civil liberties, and constitutional literature and of criminal profiling more generally, The University of Chicago, Chicago. https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1259&context=public_law_and_legal_theory
- Knowles, J., Persico, N., & Todd, P. (1999). Racial bias in motor vechile searches: Theory and evidence. National Bureau of Economic Research, Massachusetts. https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w7449/w7449.pdf
- Chifflet, P. (2015). Questioning the validity of criminal profiling: an evidence-based approach. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 48(2), 238-255. doi:101177/0004865814530732.
- Canter, D. V., & Youngs, D. (2009). Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action. John Wiley & Sons, United States of America.
- Mutawa, N. A., Bryce, J., Franqueira, V. N. L., Marrington, A., & Read, J. C. (2018). Behavioural Digital Forensics Model: Embedding behavioural evidence analysis into the investigation of digital crimes. Digital Investigations, 28(1), 70-82. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.diin.2018.12.003
[edit | edit source]
- Criminal Profiling: An Introduction to Behavioural Evidence Analysis (Book)
- Former FBI Agent Explains Criminal Profiling (Video)
- Investigative Psychology: Offender Profiling and the Analysis of Criminal Action (Book)
- Real Crime Profile (Podcast)